Brendan Rodgers returns to Swansea for the first time on Sunday with a Liverpool side that is still struggling to adapt to the ethos he honed in South Wales. He remains wedded to moving the ball quickly, pressing high up the pitch to retain possession and strict positional organisation. At Swansea, he inherited a squad that had been overseen by Roberto Martinez and Paolo Sousa, disciples of this technical approach. At Liverpool, he is attempting to convert seasoned internationals more accustomed to pace and power. The results have been mixed thus far.
They may be seven games unbeaten in the league, a run including a 5-2 win at Norwich, their most complete performance of the season, but four of those games were drawn. Liverpool remain heavily dependent on Luis Suarez, who has scored or contributed to 85% of their goals this campaign. The burden would have been shared had the club not lost Fabio Borini to a long term injury and baulked at Clint Dempsey’s transfer fee. It is a position that Rodgers intends to reinforce in January.
Swansea returned to the top flight last year and passed their way to safety. Only Manchester City completed more passes and goalkeeper Michel Vorm, one of their most impressive performers last term, was signed as much for his ability with his feet and his hands. Swansea build from the back without fear, comfortable in possession and shielded by Leon Britton, they are a resolute, fluid side. Spending a paltry £6.75m, they also sign players to fit the system and have since replaced Rodgers with the like-minded Michael Laudrup.
In contrast, Liverpool look uneasy playing the ball out of defence and often get caught in possession, while it looks unlikely that Steven Gerrard is going to stop booming diagonal balls up field any time soon. The irony is that Liverpool often look at their most potent when adopting a more direct approach, bypassing midfield to release Suarez. Rodgers has disregarded Kenny Dalglish’s high profile signings in favour of developing some of Liverpool’s talented youngsters, who in turn look more comfortable with his favoured style of play. In a gruelling campaign competing in four competitions and a high-energy approach, Rodgers may be forced to rely on some of the players he has ostracised as the season progresses.
For a side intent on retaining the ball, the loss of Lucas Leiva was a significant blow, for Rodgers and Dalglish before him. He will have to find a way of propelling Liverpool up the table without his Brazilian enforcer because despite glimpses of their potential, the results to date have not been good enough. There has been plenty of patience from owners and fans alike, but it is not infinite.
Rodgers felt the need to thank the club for their understanding, in light of Roberto Di Matteo’s sacking this week. “If
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